Eleven years. It took eleven years to get my bum back to Italy, and not even Florence, at that. Still, Milan is better than nothing. It's a surprisingly cool city. I had never given it too much thought before. Everyone knows about Rome, Florence, Venice, etc., and of course I have my obsession with Siena and San Gimignano, but Milan had never really crossed my radar. Except Milano Pepperidge Farm cookies. The mint ones are awesome.
But tickets from Paris were cheap, and Milan is near Bergamo, which is Greenville's sister city. But to get to Bergamo, we had to fly into Milano. It was an easy flight and a lovely day. Our first stop was to see the cathedral. Unfortunately, we didn't go inside. After eleven years memory tends to fade, and I forgot you need your knees and shoulders covered to enter a cathedral in Italy. And since it was 80+ degrees here today, I was in a sleeveless, above-the-knee dress. Fail.
We didn't stay very long in the piazza in front of the cathedral. It was very, very crowded and didn't feel entirely safe. The sheer amount of people was overwhelming. And apparently there is a very, very large market for selfie sticks in front of the duomo and elsewhere in Milano.
We took some pictures outside. There are a TON of pigeons. Gross. One of those hawker guys came up to me and kept trying to give me corn to feed the pigeons so he could then extort us for money, but he was barking up the wrong tree. A, I do not give money to those sketchy street vendors, and B, birds freak me the heck out. If he thought I was actually interested in attracting those feathery scavengers, he was very, very wrong.
Directly to the left of the cathedral was the famous shopping area, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It was also very ornate, but since its stores ran more toward Prada and Louis Vuitton, and my budget leans more toward H&M and Camaieu, we didn't stay long.
After that, it was time to head to a less touristy location for the traditional Milanese tradition of apertivo. It's basically just a grown-up happy hour. For the price of a beverage, you either receive some nibbles or access to a buffet. It varies depending on restaurant, but it's a very big thing in this part of Italy. So of course we were going to partake.
As we walked, we came across this Wall of Dolls. We don't know enough Italian to understand what it's for, but it seems like it's trying to raise awareness for something. It was very interesting.
We finally chose a bar a little way from the cathedral, Todos a Cuba. Each of our drinks was 7 euros, but we got access to a buffet. The idea is not to approach the buffet like an American and cram as much onto your plate, but instead to only eat a little and savor the flavors of what you're eating. It's supposed to awaken your taste buds for dinner, not comprise dinner. So I only had some marinated carrot and zucchini sticks and a couple of sausage meatballs. It was nice to sit down after all that walking.
Did you know Milano has canals? Venice gets all the attention for its canals, due to the sheer amount and the fact that the entire city is built around them, but Milano does have canals. The Navigli District is the canal area, and we knew that was something we definitely wanted to see. So we hopped on the trolley and took a ride down.
It was also very crowded here. Italy is much warmer than France, so this is prime tourist time in Italy - warm, but not too hot. We had a hard time finding a place to eat dinner.
We finally found a great little place to eat, not quite on the canals but nearby, and I got to introduce Brian to one of the (many) reasons I love Italy: an entire liter of house wine for only 11 euros (that's more than a bottle, FYI). He had some kind of pasta, and I had wonderful spinach and ricotta ravioli with a parmesan butter sauce. It was divine. And of course, we topped it all off with a tiramisu for B and panna cotta in caramel sauce for me.
After dinner, we wandered down to a different section of the canal district and sat on the sidewalk while dangling our feet above the water. And then I hugged a snail.
It was a fast and furious day in Milan, arriving at 4:00ish on Thursday and leaving for Bergamo at 11:30 on Friday. I'm sure if we had more time we could have found more little gems, but this will have to do for now.
Little disclaimer: we have a couple different sets of visitors this week and we'll be traveling, so be patient as you wait for updates! Just sign up for email delivery, and I promise you won't miss a thing.
E & B